Wednesday 2nd November 2011
Subject: Death of asylum seekers in Indonesian waters
LIPSON: Scott Morrison, thanks for your time. Yesterday the government went straight on the attack, blaming the Opposition for this tragedy in Indonesian waters. What’s your response to that?
MORRISON: Well I think that was very disappointing. I think it was disappointing and frankly desperate of the government at a time where the focus should’ve been on the rescue and recovery effort. I mean, this is a terrible tragedy. All of these tragedies are tragedies, whether in Indonesian waters or Australian waters, and instead of just focusing on those matters last night, I thought it was shameful frankly that they would seek to score political points at a time like that. The Coalition did not want to engage in that debate, not frankly wanting to debate it today. That’s where the focus should remain on the rescue and recovery.
LIPSON: On the rescue and recovery, should Australia be assisting Indonesia or do you think they’re handling the situation OK?
MORRISON: Well if they need that assistance I’m sure and I would hope that the Government would be providing that. I’ve been in contact with the Minister this morning and as information comes in, I know we’ll be briefed but I fear that that news when it comes won’t be good but if the Indonesians require any assistance then it should be forthcoming but I suspect they’re in a position to be able to deal with the matter. LIPSON: Do you think any special assistance or special treatment should be afforded to the survivors of this sinking?
MORRISON: Well this happened in Indonesian waters and that’s the environment in which those matters will be addressed.
LIPSON: So as - you may not be prepared to go too deep into the policy but the Government has gone on the attack, blaming the Opposition for essentially blocking the Malaysia solution. Are you comfortable with the sort of political arguments going on into the never never as these boats keep arriving or are you prepared now to re-look at the policy and the positions and perhaps try and find a compromise?
MORRISON: The Coalition doesn’t support policy failures. If the government wants to pursue policy failures in Malaysia, well that’s their business. The Coalition has simply said with one amendment to the Migration Act Amendment Bill, that we would seek to have offshore processing in countries that are signatories to the Refugee Convention. Now that was the policy of the Government before the last election. The only thing we have asked them to agree with on this bill is to support a position they actually held before the last election. Now if they agree to that, the bill passes and they can have offshore processing in 148 countries including in Papua New Guinea which is actually one of their policies. Now the Government doesn’t wish to do that, they are the government – that is up to them to make those decisions. This Government at every opportunity when things don’t go the way they would like just simply blames Tony Abbott and the Opposition. They need to understand that they are the Government and they need to act as a government and deal decisively as a government and to do that I would recommend that they adopt our amendment which includes offshore protections with offshore processing and we can move forward.
LIPSON: But that amendment would rule out Malaysia which is the preferred solution of the Immigration Department for example.
MORRISON: Well it’s the preferred solution of the Government and it’s no surprise that the Immigration Department would support the government. That policy since it was announced has seen over 1,500 people arrive. We’ve seen just over a boat a week arriving all year and as we approach the monsoon season, we’re seeing a few more boats arrive as well and that’s been a consistent pattern from this government under their policies so as long as the Government continues to cling to policy failures and ignores proven policies, well the Government will continue to have a problem but if they support the one amendment that they refuse stubbornly to adopt then the Government will continue to have this issue indefinitely.
LIPSON: Do you stand by the policy to tow back the boats where safe?
LISPON: - In the wake of this tragedy?
MORRISON: Of course I do. These are the proven policies that we’ve had which ensured that boats stopped coming to Australia. That is the proven outcome of our policies, combined with temporary protection visas and offshore processing. Of course we stand by our policies, they’re proven. They worked.
LIPSON: Towing back a boat into Indonesian waters for example wouldn’t, even if it was safe at the time you did it, isn’t that just pushing the problem into another country - for example you know highlighted by what’s happened in the last 24 hours?
MORRISON: Well the way this is done and I don’t think people tend to understand it – there is a lot of safety measures that are put around how this is undertaken and the safety is always put at the top of the list in terms of how it’s conducted. But our policy is straightforward – if a boat is coming towards Australia, we will seek to turn it back where it is safe to do so. If that boat, you’re unable to turn it back, well there’s offshore processing. And if you happen to be a refugee at offshore processing, then you will only get a temporary protection visa. That is the systemic policy that we operated in government successfully, that’s the approach we think the Government should take. If they don’t want to take that up, that’s their right – they’re the government but they’re accountable for their own polices and their decisions.
LIPSON: Scott Morrison, thanks for your time.
MORRISON: Thanks a lot David.
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